Food Is a Human Right, UN Expert Says

UN expert pushes for food to be a legally binding human right
UN expert Olivier De Schutter says food should be legally recognized as a human right.

Faced with a need for food, other human rights can seem less significant, but food is not universally seen as a human right. An independent expert with the UN is pushing to change that, and is pushing for governments to take more responsibility in making sure people have food to eat.

"Often we labor under the misconception that the right to food is not like political rights such as freedom of speech," said UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, in his report, "Assessing a decoade of right to food progress." "But economic and social rights—to food, water, housing, social protection—are just as real, just as binding, and can be upheld just as legitimately in court."

According to Food Navigator, De Schutter says South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, and Niger have already included a right to food in their constitutions. He believes governments should adopt nutrition policies into their legal systems in an attempt to take responsibility for the food supply.

"Treating food as a human right brings coherence and accountability," De Schutter said. "It helps to close the gaps by putting food security of all citizens at the top of the decision-making hierarchy, and making these decision-making processes participatory and accountable."

According to Food Navigator, the UN's Committee on World Food Security adopted its Right to Food Voluntary Guidelines in 2004 and is planning to review them in 2014. 

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